Slurred Speech


The Dark Side of Comedy

While laughing and coming up with a wide selection of old time shows

that were either variety and/or talk shows, we came upon a somber

moment. My coworkers and I had listed The Jackie Gleason Show, which

included a funny character named, “Crazy Guggenheim.” We had also talked

about how many of the talk show ‘hosts’ or ‘hostesses’ held cigarettes

in their fingers or had a amber colored beverage in their glasses.

Who doesn’t remember Dean Martin, for example, having a drink in

his hand?

By the way, Frank Fontaine portrayed Crazy Guggenheim on both the

Jackie Gleason and Jack Benny shows. He died of 58 years old, about

to donate a check for heart disease studies. His heart attack was

a shock to those who loved him. He knew how to sing well, having

filled a whole album of the songs he sang, while Jackie G. portrayed

his famous alter ego, “Joe the Bartender.” Frank F. was famous for

his slurred speeches, his drunken behavior and his bug-eyed look

and facial expressions.

We thought that it was interesting how times ‘had changed’ and

decided there were “pro’s” and “con’s” to the past.

Let me insert a famous line from the movie, “A Night at the Opera,”


“Let there be dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons, and

necking in the parlor.”

This line was spoken by Groucho Marx, in his portrayal of the film’s

character, Otis B. Driftwood.

We know now that famous people are just like us, in many ways.

We also realize that, although there were “Time” and “Newsweek”

magazines trying to bring to the forefront of the population,

the downfalls of alcohol, drugs, gambling and smoking, there were

many disregarding the after effects, side effects and we did not

have such a stigma attached to these ‘bad’ habits. Two of us at my

lunch table on Thursday, became rather sad and quiet. They were

reflecting on recalled deaths of family members due to smoking and

cancer. One of us had experienced abusive, “mean drunks” for parents.

We decided that addictions, such as these, are still not considered

as ‘big of a deal.’ Society, in some ways, continues to ‘brush them

under the table.’

Even the subject of rehabilitation has had its lighter comedic film

moments. People either laugh, due to the antics and situations that

don’t seem real or out of being uncomfortable. It is hard to explain

why we laugh when someone runs into a wall, falls off a roof, or

trips and does a pratfall.

Treatment for the addictions, in the form of actually facing that

these ARE diseases, is important. Still, we felt a little sad

about the fun we had, when young and felt ‘invincible’ and our

lives, for the most part, had been impermeable to the aging

results of sometimes almost impossible challenges.

Slurred speech, in the ways a person sometimes cannot help it,

while in persons who have had a stroke, live with the challenge

of disabilities and speech delays are NOT FUNNY! We would not

laugh, hopefully, when someone has a speech ‘impediment!’

We still felt a little ambiguous, as we thought back upon the

variety of comedy skits that made us roar with uncontrollable

laughter. Melvin admitted to sometimes, while in the armed

forces, being drunk and thinking it was funny when his buddies

and he pulled pranks while drunk. It is considered a serious

offense, and if caught, these days, you could be court-martialed!

Melvin remarked, that in the ‘old war stories’ of the past, often

there would be stories of men ‘letting off steam.’ We also agreed

that the Viet Nam war movies, seemed to include a prevalent use

of drugs.

Who can forget Crazy Guggenheim’s humorous lines, his leaning

into a person, while breathing out his alcoholic breath? Who

cannot forget when there have been famous movies, with drunken

scenes, sometimes with innocent types of sloppy behaviors?

Who can forget the drunken orgies in “Animal House?”

Who has seen and enjoyed some teenaged or college-aged

movies (or personal memories) where it was very funny being

drunk or being around people who were high?

Who did not laugh (if they are above 40 years old) at Cheech

and Chong’s movie, “Up in Smoke?”

Adding, “Arthur,” with Dudley Moore and The Benny Hill Show,

to the mix, we had international connections of drinking in

movies and television shows.

I have seen Doris Day, Sandra Dee, Humphrey Bogard, Elizabeth

Taylor, Richard Burton and other classic actors and actresses

who have done scenes where they portrayed alcoholics. Some

were quite dramatic and serious roles with “mean” and “sloppy”

drunken roles as their focus. Yet, some were fun ‘romp’ movies

where the drunks were silly.

A lot of comedies include either drugs, alcohol or addictions,

going over the top in their portrayals.

There are also famous movies with the dark and angry side of

the picture:

“Days of Wine and Roses” and “Leaving Las Vegas” come to mind.

We have moved forward in some ways, then stepped back, too.

After all, we still have three “Hangover” movies…

I still will watch comedy sketches with the Saturday Night

Live crew, some who are great at making me laugh, acting

silly while stumbling around and falling down drunk.


25 responses »

  1. I like the Hangover movies because I can’t get enough Bradley Cooper 😉
    You’ve given me something to think about. These addictions or the results of smoking aren’t funny, yet we laugh.Odd.

    • Thanks, April. I was a little nervous about writing this post! I know at work, we were chatting away about it, then I wondered if I would somehow hurt or step on someone’s toes! I am hoping that this will not bother people but (like you) get people thinking! I love the movie, “Silver Linings Playlist” and recommend it as a sweet one with Bradley Cooper. In it, he has some quirks and needs attending therapy sessions, a more ‘real’ character but man! I agree, he is cute! Smiles, Robin

    • Thanks, Colleen! I am so glad (so far) I have not tread on anyone’s toes. I still watch the Hangover and drinking movies, but sometimes feel less likely to laugh… So nice of you to label this post, ‘wonderful!’ I appreciate this comment.

      • I’ve been pretty lucky when it comes to ‘toe treading’. Even when I have done so, people here are incredibly respectful. And I’ve had the good fortune of always being able to discuss differences to a mutual understanding.

        And you are welcome! 🙂

      • I find almost all wordpress people have been so nice, Colleen! I have only two examples, where I had to act upon other’s suggestions. I rewrote a post about the Pearl Harbor attack, where I did not represent it very fairly. I also had to put someone into my Spam, repeatedly, since she thought I was ‘lying’ about my dates with men! Lol!
        I really enjoyed writing the stories, hoping to encourage people to try online dating. I wished she could have understood that I was calling meeting for coffee or walking at a park, ‘dates.’ So, I could truthfully say, in 6 months time, I had 100 different ‘dates.’ It was fun, I did not try to get ‘free meals.’ Once in awhile, I did get ice cream, offering to pay and was refused! Smiles, Robin

  2. It’s hard to believe so many people thought this kind of stuff was funny. Alcoholism was long a problem in this country, which is one of the reasons we ended up with Prohibition. After seeing myself the devastating effects of addiction, I can’t think of this stuff as vintage charm at all.

    • Thanks, Luanne! I agree, for the most part, too. I enjoyed the way the actors were being mainly pleasant in their caricatures of drunks. They didn’t seem to see the powerful influence that television carried, especially in the old days, where there weren’t as many choices on! I am so glad that you mentioned that alcoholism has been a problem, from early on in our country, along with where many of our ancestors came from, included! I am so glad you did not mind the serious nature of this post.

  3. I watched a couple of movies recently where they had the cigarette smoke everywhere, in offices, in movie theaters. I am glad that is one thing that has changed about how we do things. 🙂

    • It is funny to think of how recently this has become ‘not the norm.’ Sad this is still going on in other countries, in their offices, news rooms, and dining areas, etc. Two of my favorite movies, “Casablanca” and “All the Presidents’ Men” have smoking with lead actors doing this.

      I have a good guy friend who still thinks it is okay to smoke in the car, while I am with him. He will open the window and I try to not mind it. I also was appalled, when I visited his children’s houses, while two of his daughters (while pregnant) not only smoked, but in the house, with others smoking around the table. I don’t mind so much on picnics or on patios… This is really strange, too, when you see two people who have been ‘romantic,’ in those older movies, and lighting up afterwards! Thanks, Elizabeth!

  4. We must remember that it is comedy, Robin. It is to be appreciated and learned from. Do some young people use ‘Hangover’ as a blueprint for overindulgence? That is the flip side of the equation. Thank you for bringing up the topic.

    • I laugh a lot at the Hangover movies! I also laughed at the others that I listed, Mark. I do remember they are comedies and much can be an opposite effect, like when the teens in movies, are vomiting or passing out…
      It is hard not to bring the subject up, since I now have grandchildren who are viewing some of the movies that are in the PG and PG-13 range… It is worth a discussion, since I have two exes who are ‘grandpa’s’ who still light up! Don’t want them to think it is acceptable or an ‘adult’ habit they look forward to doing. I have even refused my grandson, age 9, Skyler of buying the bubble gum in the ‘Chew’ packs, that make it look like baseball players’ use it. I tell him he can have any other kind. I do remember, at Halloween, my brothers liking to pretend smoke those candy cigarettes. I was fortunate that in the 80’s upon having his first grandchild, my Dad quit smoking in the car or house. He made a wooden plaque that I hung outside the door of our own houses, that had the words, “Children Inside, Please Don’t Smoke!’
      Your point of view and comments are appreciated, Mark! Smiles, Robin

  5. I’ve never seen many of the movies you referenced, Robin, but I do remember many of the older movies where the actor always had a drink and cigarette in his/her hand. It was just the sign of the times. Back then, you wouldn’t see two men or two women kissing, but now we do. Check out Dick Van Dyke or I Love Lucy…they didn’t even sleep in the same bed.

    • My first t.v. show that I noticed the twin beds were no longer in the parents’ bedroom and had become a bigger, king or queen sized one, was “The Brady Bunch!” It took quite awhile for that to become acceptable on television. You are so right, Jill!

  6. Let’s face it, people wouldn’t drink, smoke etc if it wasn’t initially fun or relaxing. The best comedy is dark because it’s the only way to get through the real darkness of alcoholism, abuse etc–a coping mechanism. My family is full of unfunny and funny drunks, smokers and abusers (mostly verbal, annoying teasing 🙂 ) I think nothing is off limits for humor (well almost nothing). Interesting post.

    • I apologize profusely, Adrienne! I was looking for someone who regularly comments and wondering what happened. I know I am really sorry that I found a bunch of nice comments from awhile ago, stuck in the ‘pending approval’ section of wordpress! I am so sorry since this was a great comment and you were right, we find different ways to cope with family and their sometimes dysfunctional behaviors! I agree that it is okay to laugh at drinking, especially when it is so that we recognize mistakes can be made. No one is perfect. Somehow, it is like when a friend stumbles and falls on the ice, when they get up and are not hurt, we both may laugh out loud at our klutzy ways! Smiles, Robin

  7. Too add to your post, Robin, there are many examples of inappropriate behavior that made us laugh because it was not the norm and often it was unexpected.

    Foster Brooks’ whole comedic shtick, as I recall, was playing drunks and his antics made us laugh. Pratfalls – think of Chevy Chase who was sober and made us laugh as he imitated Gerald Ford who became president after Richard Nixon left office. Stuttering – Kevin Kline (Otto) made insensitive remarks about Michael Palin (Ken)’s speech impediment in “A Fish Called Wanda.” In “The Thin Man” series, a lot of scenes of drinking. But it came out shortly after prohibition was lifted. (I believe) As stated by others, these all were a sign of the times and I don’t think we decided to emulate the bad behavior.

    • Oh, you gave us such a great addition to this post, with lots of fine examples, Judy! I appreciate this so much! I liked and had forgotten Foster Brooks’ characters. I also liked Chevy Chase, in many roles, mainly due to he was kind and not a swearing comic on stage, too. He liked to be the shuffling and self effacing character roles, I liked him in the remake of “Cyrano.”
      I had forgotten that Kevin Kline did make fun of a speech impediment in that wacky comedy, “A Fish Called Wanda.”
      Drinking, as in the Thin Man series, I believe was a social way of interacting. I don’t remember there being any drunken scenes.
      I think we got quiet and somber, at our table,. when we realized that the movies can sometimes make things seem fun. I lived with an alcoholic, if people go back to check on my first marriage. It was definitely not fun! I think it is a little hard for me, looking now at teens or college aged drinking in movies that are not showing the ‘downsides’ to it. But, I laugh at most movies, out loud and am so glad to have this discussion going! Thanks, Judy for your input on this subject!

      • The swearing comics get me. Using the shock factor to get a laugh is often a sign of a lazy mind. There are exceptions, of course – George Carlin for one. But I prefer comedy that does not rely on ‘blue language.’ To me, something is funny when we don’t expect it. This is why I’ve mostly stopped watching TV. The sitcoms are more ‘situation’ than comedies. More’s the pity. ;-(

        You’re correct about the “Thin Man” series. I don’t recollect any drunken scenes. Glad you liked my additions. 😉 Interesting topic, Robin.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s